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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2020-68
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2020-68
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  16 Jul 2020

16 Jul 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

The transient sensitivity of sea level rise

Aslak Grinsted1 and Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen1,2 Aslak Grinsted and Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen
  • 1Physics of Ice, Climate and Earth, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 2NORCE Climate, Bergen, Norway

Abstract. Recent assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change implies that global mean sea level is unlikely to rise more than about 1.1 m within this century, but with further increase beyond 2100, even within the most intensive future anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission scenarios. However, some studies conclude that considerably greater sea level rise could be realized, and experts assign a substantially higher likelihood of such a future. To understand this discrepancy, it would be useful to have scenario independent metrics that can be compared between different approaches. The concept of a transient climate response has proven to be useful to compare the response of climate models. Here, we introduce a similar metric for sea level science. By analyzing mean rate of change in sea level (not sea level itself), we identify a near linear relationship with global mean surface temperature (and therefore accumulated carbon dioxide emissions) in both model projections, and in observations on a century time scale. This motivates us to define the Transient Sea Level Sensitivity as the increase in the sea level rate associated with a given warming in units of m/century/K. We find that model projections fall below extrapolation based on recent observational records. This comparison indicates that the likely upper level of sea level projections in recent IPCC reports would be too low.

Aslak Grinsted and Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen

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Aslak Grinsted and Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen

Aslak Grinsted and Jens Hesselbjerg Christensen

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Latest update: 19 Oct 2020
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Short summary
As we warm our planet, oceans expand, ice on land melts and sea levels are rising. On century time scales, we find that sea level response to warming can be characterized by a single metric: the transient sea level sensitivity. Historical sea level exhibits substantially higher sensitivity than model-based estimates such as those analysed in authoritative climate assessments. This implies that recent projections could well underestimate the likely sea level rise by the end of this century.
As we warm our planet, oceans expand, ice on land melts and sea levels are rising. On century...
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